Safer Sex

Talk with your kids about safer-sex
Talk with your kids about safer-sex-2
Talk with your parents about sex
What Parents Talk/Don't Talk About with their Kids
Safer Sex

Is Safe Sex Really Safe?
Safer sex factsheets
Don't Own More than 6 Condoms in Texas - and it Gets Worse

Related issues: Abortion, AIDS, Bacterial Vaginosis, Blue Balls, Celibacy, Chancroid, Chlamydia, Condoms, Contraception, Contraception Effectiveness, Crabs, Genital Herpes, Genital Warts, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, Impotency, Men & Abortion, Nongonococcal Urethritis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Reproduction, STDS, Syphilis, Trichomoniasis, Yeast Infection
Communications, Conflict Resolution, Impotency, Intimacy, Relationships, Sexuality
Slide Guide: Guide to STDs
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Reason to Wear a Condom

Talk with your kids about safer-sex

1 out of 8 U.S. teenagers gets a sexually transmitted disease (STD) each year. To protect themselves, teens need to know about STDs and the behaviors that put them at risk. As a paent, you can be one of the best sources of accurate information.

What is safer sex?

If two people have sexual intercourse or oral sex and one of them has an STD, they could give it to their partner(s). Doctors believe that if the man wears a latex condom whenever he has intercourse, it helps to protect both partners from giving each other an STD. That's why people call sexual intercourse or oral sex with a latex condom "safer sex."

The following safer sex guidelines can help protect against STDs:

1. Don't allow any of your partner's body fluids to enter your body. These include semen, blood, menstrual blood and vaginal secretions.

2. Always use a latex condom with a water-based lubricant for vaginal, anal or oral sex. Both sexually active men and women should carry condoms and insist that they be used.

3. Don't use oil-based lubricants. Hand creams, massage oils, Vaseline, etc., can cause the condom to leak or break.

4. Don't have sex when you're drunk or high. It makes it harder to follow safer sex guidelines.

Talking is important

Many parents find it hard to talk about sex. But by the time children reach third grade, research shows that as many as 93 percent of them have already heard about AIDs. Talking with your child about STDs gives you a chance to:

1. Give them the information to make good decisions about sex.

2. Share your family's values and beliefs.

3. Build a relationship based on trust and communication.

Talking can be hard.

1. It may feel strange to think of your child as a sexual person, let alone discuss the risks of unprotected sex. But being direct about the issue, using age-appropriate information, will help your child plan ahead.

2. You may worry that your child will take talking about STDs and safer sex as permission to have sex. But children who have inaccurate or incomplete information are most likerly to have unsafe sex.

3. Your child may not want to talk at first. Be patient and keep trying. Many children may secretly welcome a chance to learn about STDs

Know the facts

What does your child need to know?

1. Anyone can get an STD from having sex with someone who has one. STDs can be passed by vaginal, oral or anal sex and sometimes by genital touching.

2. Many STDs have no symptoms so a person can have an STD and pass it to a sexual partner without knowing it.

3. Common STDs include chlamydia, genital warts, gonorrhea, syphillis, herpes, hepatitis B and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).

4. Many STDs can be treated and cured. Some have no cure. STDs can cause serious health problems.

5. People can protect themselves from STDs. Not having sex - abstinence - is safest. To work, you must obstain from all sexual activity.

Talking can be hard.

Many parents find it hard to talk about sex. But by the time children reach third grade, research shows that as many as 93 percent of them have already heard about AIDs.

1. It may feel strange to think of your child as a sexual person, let alone discuss the risks of unprotected sex. But being direct about the issue, using age-appropriate information, will help your child plan ahead.

2. You may worry that your child will take talking about STDs and safer sex as permission to have sex. But children who have inaccurate or incomplete information are most likerly to have unsafe sex.

3. Your child may not want to talk at first. Be patient and keep trying. Many children may secretly welcome a chance to learn about STDs

How to begin the discussion.

Getting started may be the hardest part. Here are some ideas.

1. If you're embarrassed, say so. Your child will respect your honesty and may find it easier to be open with you.

2. Begin to discuss the facts by aasking if STDs have been brought up in class at school.

3. Talk in general terms at first. Try asking: "Do you think children protect themselves from STDs?" or, "If you were in their situation, what would you do?" (Be sure your questions and discussion are age appropriate.)

4. Share your memories as a teen. "I recall having a lot of questions about sex when I was your age."

5. Share an activity. Shopping together, eating out or playing a sport can help you feel close. Then bringing up a tough subject can be easier.

Talking tips

Try to create an open, nonjudgemental atmosphere. Then your child will feel free to ask questions.

1. Express respect for your child's ideas, even when you don't agree. Show that you want to share rather than preach.

2. Be clear, direct and matter of fact. Tackling the issue head on can help diffuse embarrassment and fear about STDs that can keep children from protecting themselves.

3. Listen carefully and don't interrupt. Look for cues to your child's concerns or worries.

4. Be honest about what you don't know. Finding answers together is a great way to learn and share.

5. Be prepared to talk again. The facts and your messages about values will have greater impact if you repeat them often.

Talking to Your Teens About Sexual Issues and Safe Sex-2

How to Talk So Your Teens Listen

I’ve always considered myself open with my children about safe sex issues. However, when the day came soon after my “baby” son’s 18th birthday that he asked me to take him to Planned Parenthood for free condoms all my openness flew out the window. I asked Duane Westhoff, HIV & STD Prevention Specialist for Health and Education for Youth/Young Adults (HEY), a Project ARK Program for his advice. Here are his suggestions for talking to your teens about sexual issues, including safe sex.

Your teenager depends on you for information about values, love and relationships, not just in word, but in deed. Here are a few suggestions that may help you and other parents who struggle with communicating about sexual issues with their teens:

“If you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it.” Usually, I suggest this rule of thumb to youth who are becoming sexually active to encourage sexual responsibility and communication about condoms. It seems to apply to parents who are queasy about providing condoms to their teens as well. Talk with your teen about your concerns. Be honest with your struggles. Explore your feelings and share them. Discuss with your son or daughter the positive and negative consequences that sex can have on our lives. You may even want to suggest this helpful phrase to them.

Talking is difficult but important. It may be confusing and difficult to explain your concerns. You may feel embarrassed. What a great opportunity this is to role model for your teen about healthy communication. You are the greatest role model your teen has.

Keep in mind, your teen may not want to talk about it. Show that you are interested without demanding intimate details. Teens want their privacy and have most of the facts about sex and pregnancy, but they also want their parents to be involved in their lives. Take advantage of natural opportunities to talk. The next time you pass by a clinic, bring up the topic again.

There are a dozen reasons why parents want their children to use condoms “when the right time comes.” Discussing with your teen whether or not it is the right time may be incredibly important. Teens need to know that sex won’t heal a troubled relationship. Sex is not proof of adulthood. Sex carries with it major responsibilities and is he or she ready for them? If these are your concerns, explain that it’s for these reasons that as a parent you struggle with taking him to get free condoms. While you want him to be safe, you also hope he’s having sex for positive reasons.

Stress that except for not having sex, latex condoms are the only method that offers reliable protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Don’t forget that he can also buy his own condoms. We need to empower teens and remind them that sex carries responsibilities. If he is too embarrassed to buy condoms or to get free condoms, maybe that’s a sign that he’s not really ready for the responsibilities of sex. Remind your teen as well, “If you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Do More Than Lecture About Abstinence

Simply Expressing Not to Have Sex Doesn't Work

When it comes talking about sex, contraception and teenage dating, it seems that parents tend to get trapped making some predictable mistakes. One of these errors has to do with only discussing abstinence. When asked about this issue, teens have overwhelmingly responded that they need to hear more from their parents than just "don't have sex." In fact, this is one area where teens feel that their parents must give them the benefit of the doubt.

Parents should not allow themselves to fall into the pitfall of believing that their teen will receive mixed messages or become confused if both contraception and abstinence are discussed at the same time. Show your teen that you respect his/her intelligence enough to engage in these responsible discussions. As per the requests expressed by many teens:

Parents – You Must Do More than Just Lecture about Abstinence

I realize this can be a slippery slope. It is important that you (as a parent) unmistakably clarify, for your teen, your hopes and values with respect to their behavior. It is perfectly OK for you to share your opinion, morals and expectations about sex with your teen. It may be helpful, though, for you to first be clear about your own sexual attitudes and values before having this conversation. When having this discussion, make sure you are explaining why you feel the way you do (this is not the time for “because I said so”), actively seek your teen’s input and listen to what they have to say.

I wish, though, it could be just that easy. Unfortunately, in today’s world, parents need to do much more than tell your teen not to have sex. This is also the time that you must talk about sex and contraception:

  • Candidly
  • Confidently
  • And be honest if you are not sure about something

It may also be helpful to discuss how you felt when you were a teenager... keeping in mind the change of the times. Do your best to make this a conversation rather than a lecture.

  • Ask your teen for his/her opinions
  • Listen
  • Be respectful

In addition to talking about safety and pregnancy, talk about the emotions that can come along with a sexual relationship

  • Consider your teen’s point of view
  • Encourage questions and respond to what they have to say

It may be helpful to know that 53% of teens say that their parents or their own religious beliefs, morals and values influence their sexual decisions the most. Teens whose parents provide clear messages about the value of abstinence are more likely to delay their first sexual experience, and parents who discuss contraception are more likely to have teens who use birth control when they finally choose to engage in sexual activity.

Researchers Michelle M. Isley et al. discovered that abstinence-only education is simply not enough. Their study revealed that teens who believed that they received sex education that ONLY contained information about birth control methods were much more likely to use a reliable contraceptive method the first time they engaged in sex. It seems that teens who experienced sex education discussions that mainly included strong lectures on abstinence were less likely to use a reliable contraceptive during their first sexual act. This data suggests that abstinence-only messaging tends to cancel out, or dilutes, the potential beneficial effects conveyed by information about birth control methods. It seems then, that stressing more to your teen not to have sex, especially when no information about contraception is presented, can lead to undependable birth control use.

Comprehensive Sex Education vs. Abstinence-Only Education

This study also showed that when parents discuss sex topics in detail (and not just abstinence), there is a higher likelihood that their teens will use a more dependable birth control method. These comprehensive sex conversations between parents and teens (that go beyond parents telling teens not to have sex) help to promote healthier teen sexual behaviors. Parents should discuss hormonal birth control methods because teens who use these methods tend to do so more consistently. This conversation should not be reserved for just female teens.

Many male teens have shown very limited knowledge about hormonal contraceptives (believing many myths about the pill, for example) or may not even know what hormonal options are available. When parents provide their teen sons with this information, it will help them to feel more secure in their knowledge – this, in turn, will help serve as an essential step in helping these young men facilitate responsible discussions about contraceptives with their girlfriends.

Finally, it appears that teens who have participated in discussions with family members about condoms are more likely to use condoms themselves. So, my final tip... when parents talk about how to use condoms or buy condoms (rather than focus on abstinence), teen condom use increases.

And to back me up on all this, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Adolescents, actively supports and encourages doctors to counsel teens about the correct and consistent use of reliable contraception and condoms among those who are sexually active or considering sexual activity. Given that research clearly supports that parents can positively influence whether their female teens engage in safer sexual practices when they have sexual intercourse, parents and teens should both be encouraged to talk about the discussions that the teen had with her doctor during her appointment.

The bottom line here, parents: It's time to go beyond abstinence lectures:

  • Your teen doesn’t want to hear not to have sex.
  • Your teen needs comprehensive birth control information and should be encouraged to use effective contraception.
  • Teens should understand how pregnancy happens.
  • Help strengthen your teen's negotiation skills, so he/she can confidently discuss contraceptive use with their partners and/or can effectively "say no".
  • Teens taught information about safer sexual practices by their parents are more likely to engage in these behaviors themselves.
  • Do more than lecture about abstinence -- protect your teen and help him/her begin to make healthy and responsible sexual choices.


Safer Sex

What does "safer sex" mean?  It means being smart and staying healthy. It means showing love, concern and respect for your partner and yourself. Safer sex means enjoying sex to the fullest without transmitting, or acquiring, sexually related infections.

There are many sexually transmissible diseases. All of these are caused by microorganisms which travel from one person to another during particular sexual activities. On this web site we deal with the major infections related to sexual activity and suggest effective ways to reduce your risk for those diseases.

Safer sex goes not have to mean eliminating sexual passion and intimacy from your life. Safer sex means reducing the chance of becoming infected. For individuals who decide to engage in sexual intercourse, reducing the risk of infection means using latex barriers every time you have intercourse, anal sex, fellatio or cunnilingus.

What is safe?

If you do not have anal, oral or vaginal intercourse, and if you never share needles, you have almost no risk of infection. You can greatly reduce your chance of acquiring infection through sexual intercourse by knowing and practicing safer sex. Saliva, sweat, tears and urine do not transmit HIV, but semen, blood and vaginal/cervical secretions may. Sexual activities that include no direct contact with your partner's semen, blood, or vaginal/cervical secretions are safe. Activities that do involve direct contact are risky. Precautions that reduce the chance of direct contact with those fluids will make sex safer:

Talking: can make every other sexual activity safer. Talking helps you get to know your partner better, contributes to sexual please, and provides an opportunity to negotiate safer sexual practices. However, talking alone will not protect you from infection.

Fantasy: The brain creates images and finds words to arouse, delight and satisfy. Imagination and creativity add richness to sexual experience.

What is Risky?

  • Touching: Touching, caressing, and massage provide warm, affectionate, and safe intimacy. The imaginative use of loving fingers and hands can relax, soothe, or excite.
  • Masturbation. It is safe for semen or vaginal fluids to contact unbroken skin (without obvious open cuts or sores) through self-pleasuring or mutual masturbation.
  • Kissing. There is no evidence that kissing transmits HIV, though deep kissing may transmit other sexually transmissible diseases. Kissing or licking your partner's body (other than the genitals), will not spread HIV.
  • Oral Sex/Man: The risk of acquiring HIV by performing oral sex on a man (fellatio, "blow-job") seems very low but is uncertain. Since pre-ejaculatory fluid ("pre-cum) may contain HIV, stopping before ejaculation does not necessarily reduce the risk. Using a condom for oral sex further reduces the risk of transmitting HIV. The risk of your acquiring HIV by having fellatio performed on you is extremely low, if it exists at all. Some other sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and herpes, may be transmitted by oral sex on a male.
  • Oral Sex/Woman. The risk of acquiring HIV by performing oral sex on a woman (cunnilingus) seems very low but is also undcertain. Using a latex square, dental dam, or condom cut open lengthwise, as a barrier may reduce the risk further. Cunnilingus during menstruation may have more risk, but this is not known for sure. The risk of your acquiring HIV by having cunnilingus performed on you is extremely low, if it exists at all. Some other sexually transmissible diseases, such as gonorrhea and herpes, may be more easily transmitted during cunnilingus.
  • Oral-Anal Contact. The risk of transmitting HIV to either partner through oral-anal contact ("rimming") is uncertain but seems low. However, rimming may easily transmit other organisms. Using a latex square, dental dam, or condom cut open lengthwise as a barrier may further reduce the likelihood of transmitting HIV or other organisms during rimming.
  • Vaginal Intercourse. HIV may pass from man to woman or woman to man during vaginal intercourse without a condom. Unprotected vaginal intercourse is risky. Latex condoms greatly reduce the change of acquiring or transmitting HIV during vaginal intercourse.
  • Anal Intercourse. HIV may pass from man to man or man to woman during anal intercourse without a condom. Unprotected anal intercourse is risky. Latex condoms clearly reduce the change of acquiring or transmitting HIV. However, condoms are more likely to break during anal intercourse; using adequate amounts of water-based lubricants and being careful are especially important.


Lubricants are important because they reduce the chance that condoms will break during vaginal or anal intercourse. Remember: you can never use too much lubricant and always use water-based lubricants, like KY Jelly. Some lubricants (including contraceptive gels and form) contain nonoxynol-9, a spermicidal that provides additional protection against HIV. Oil-based lubricants may cause the latex in condoms to weaker and tear, so avoid any oil- or petroleum-based lubricant, lotion, or cream (such as Vaseline, hand and body moisturizers, booking oils, or shortening).

Drugs & Alcohol

Alcohol and other recreational drugs do not cause HIV infection or other sexually transmissible diseases. However, alcohol and drugs are often major factors wen people have unsafe sex. Safer sex is smart, health, sober sex. Safer sex takes some planning, thinking, and negotiating. Alcohol and drugs can impair your judgment, short-circuit your thinking, and limit your ability to communicate effectively. Alcohol and drugs may also make you clumsy and careless in using condoms and lubricants.

Alcohol and some other recreational drugs (including cocaine, marijuana, and "designer drugs") may damage the immune system itself - making you more susceptible to infectious diseases in general.

It's important to keep alcohol and drugs out of sexual experiences. Learning skills to do this is a key part of preparing for safer sex. If alcohol or drugs frequently seem to be a part of your sexual life, seek counseling so you can find ways to change this pattern. And if alcohol or drug have become problems for you, counseling can direct you to help.

Safer sex factsheets

Below is a list of safer sex factsheets available on this site, provided by the New Mexico AIDS InfoNet. Each factsheet contains valuable information about preventing STDs and HIV. Bookmark this page, as it will be updated regularly with new info and more factsheets about safer sex.

Factsheet 150 : Stopping the spread of HIV. How HIV infection is transmitted and how you can protect yourself and others from HIV infection.

Factsheet 151 : Safer sex guidelines. How to reduce the risk of HIV infection during sexual activity.

Factsheet 152 : How risky is it? A discussion of the risk of transmitting HIV through various types of sexual activity. Factors that increase the risk of transmission.

Factsheet 153 : Condoms. Discussion of the use of condoms for HIV prevention, including the female condom and the spermicide nonoxynol-9. Condom myths and realities.

Factsheet 154 : Drug use and HIV. Drug use and transmission of HIV through unsafe sex and shared equipment. Drug interactions and needle exchange.

Factsheet 156 v: Post-exposure prophylaxis. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is treatment after exposure to HIV. It is intended to prevent HIV infection. PEP is available for workplace exposure to HIV and is being studied for nonoccupational exposures.

Is Signing an Abstinence Pledge a Guarantee of no STDs

This is a tricky question. Statistics show that those who sign a pledge actually have a higher STD rate than those who don't. The problem arises in two areas.

1. Too often individuals who sign the pledge have the best intentions so they don't learn any more about safe sex.

2. Many of these people break the pledge in the heat of the moment and are unknowledgable or unprepared to protect themselves and acquire an STD in many of these circumstances.

We support those who choose to sign a pledge of abstinence. We don't support programs, however, that want to keep them in the dark about sex, safe sex, and sexually transmitted diseases. The odds just aren't that good.

Don't Own More than 6 Condoms in Texas - and it Gets Worse

Under Texas law, if you sell or own six items that are used to stimulate the human genitalia, you're guilty of breaking a 25-year-old state obscenity law that prohibits selling a device used "primarily for stimulation of the human genital organs." This law includes condoms, so forget about a six-pack. What ever happened to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And, the state of Texas is actually using undercover cops to arrest people. If convicted, a person could go to jail for up to a year and be fined up to $4,000.

And, Texas isn't the only state to carry this kind of law on its books. Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana and Georgia also prohibit the sale of devices primarily used to stimulate the genitals. Kansas and Louisiana, like Texas, go so far as to specifically ban the sale of dildos and artificial vaginas. Other states, like Indiana, prohibit the sale of obscene devices. But their laws are vague, not specifying devices used for sexual purposes, which allows each community's standards to define what exactly is considered obscene.

Recent cases that challenged the constitutionality of these laws in Louisiana and Alabama could offer some hope. The Louisiana State Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional in 2000 (citing the statue's lack of exemptions), but the law remains on the books, relatively untouched. And, in 2002, a Federal District Court in Alabama ruled that the state's ban was unconstitutional because it violated "users' fundamental right to employ sexual devices within their private, adult, consensual, sexual relationships."
Source: Bust magazine, Summer, 04

What to Do When Your Birth Control Fails

In 2016, Teva Women’s Health, the makers of Plan B One-Step®, sponsored a survey of 3,600 college students ages 18 to 25 to learn about the students’ knowledge of emergency contraception and how they feel about unintended pregnancy. Here are the findings we found most interesting:

Unsurprisingly, about 70% responded that an unintended pregnancy would be highly disruptive to their lives.

What’s worrying, is that despite the risk and obvious inconvenience of unintended pregnancy, 27% did not believe it was appropriate for a friend, their partner or themselves to take over the counter (OTC) emergency contraception (EC) after unprotected sex.

This showed us that there are misconceptions surrounding emergency contraception, especially that students don’t view “oops moments,” like unprotected sex or birth control failure, as reasons to use OTC EC. It made us realize that too many students are missing out on some basic facts about emergency contraception. So, here’s where we want to start.

At Her Campus, we want to help you understand when you should utilize emergency contraception, and why you shouldn’t be in denial of your risk of unintended pregnancy.

Think of this as your crash course for what to do if you have unprotected sex or find out your birth control failed.

Situations that put you at risk of unintended pregnancy

In the survey, Teva Women’s Health found that on average, college students engage in sexual intercourse 5.5 times per month*. Yet 64% of the 2,638 sexually active college students surveyed were using contraception inconsistently, and only 15% of those students sampled believed they were at high risk of an unintended pregnancy*. Anytime there’s the possibility of inconsistent birth control use or contraceptive failure, accidental pregnancy is possible. In those cases, it’s completely rational to seek out OTC EC.

Confused about when you should consider emergency contraception? Here are some common situations that call for EC:

  • If your regular birth control fails, like your partner’s condom broke or slipped off
  • If you missed taking your oral birth control pill
  • If you didn’t use any form of birth control (no condom, no oral birth control pill, etc.)

Think of Plan B One-Step® emergency contraception as a backup birth control method for those “oops moments.”

What you need to know about OTC emergency contraception

According to the survey, Teva Women’s Health found that college students who feel more at risk for pregnancy know less about OTC EC*, so it’s important to be educated on the real information.

Plan B One-Step® is the number one OTC recommended emergency contraceptive brand**, used by millions of women***. It is a backup plan that helps prevent pregnancy when used as directed and taken within 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex or birth control failure. The sooner it's taken, the better it works. When used as directed, Plan B One-Step® helps prevent nearly 7 out of 8 potential pregnancies.

Plan B One-Step® contains levonorgestrel, the same hormone used in many birth control pills—just at a higher dose. It should not be used as regular birth control, because it is not as effective as using a regular birth control method correctly and consistently. Again, use as directed.

Plan B One-Step® is not an abortion pill. It will not work if you are already pregnant and will not affect an existing pregnancy. It does not protect you against HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Some women may experience side effects after taking Plan B One-Step®: such as a period that is lighter, heavier, early, or late; nausea; lower abdominal pain/cramps; tiredness; headache; dizziness; breast tenderness; and vomiting.

How to react after unprotected sex or birth control failure

The first step you could take after unprotected sex or birth control failure is to talk with someone you trust. Whether it’s your partner, a friend or a healthcare professional, it’s okay to seek out advice after an “oops moment,” because there is nothing to be ashamed of. Be open to their suggestions and opinions, especially when speaking to a healthcare professional about whether you should take Plan B One-Step®. Make sure to research your contraception options so you can help prevent unprotected sex or birth control failure in the future.

Safe sex is a must, even if you're in a monogamous relationship. Being safe is all about being honest with yourself and your partner, including having an open discussion about contraceptives.

Where to find OTC emergency contraception

Plan B One-Step® is the first FDA-approved emergency contraceptive to be available over the counter. It can usually be found in the family planning aisle at many retail stores when you need it—without a prescription or ID, and with no age restriction. A coupon and mobile rebate to help you save money on your purchase are available at

We hope that we’ve helped you feel equipped with information, and that any misconceptions you’ve had about OTC emergency contraception have been cleared up. Education is the first step in making smarter choices, and choosing Plan B One-Step® in the future to prevent unintended pregnancy may be a smart choice for you.

*Survey of 3,600 female and male college students ages 18 to 25, November 2016.
**Survey of 1000 OB/GYNs, February 2017.
***FDA drug use review, December 2011.